'Our wish is to have people on site' - spectators possible at Ebor festival
York has not given up hope of welcoming spectators back for the track's flagship Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor festival in August, although the course's chief executive William Derby is acutely aware it will take a significant change in government legislation to welcome a paying attendance to the Knavesmire.
Just a day after Goodwood supremo Adam Waterworth expressed his ambition to welcome back owners, sponsors and even some annual members to its flagship Glorious meeting at the end of next month, Derby revealed that York has yet to rule out the possibility of a wider pool of spectators attending the four-day Ebor meeting starting August 19 in some capacity.
While Goodwood has long since ruled out any general public entry, York has decided not to refund pre-booked tickets for the Ebor meeting at this stage and will monitor the ever-changing Covid-19 landscape in the build-up to August's feature.
"Like everyone, we're looking and considering and we haven't cancelled the Ebor to our pre-paid crowd or initiated any refund policies," said Derby. "Our pre-booked customers have still got their tickets and badges and we're waiting to see what the world looks like post-July 4."
He added: "The Ebor meeting is still some two months away and we've consciously not wanted to make any decisions now that we regret later on. Our wish is very much to have people on site; owners definitely, annual badge holders certainly, and people who have been coming to the Ebor for many, many years."
York has yet to stage a behind-closed-doors meeting, with the track gearing up to return with five meetings live on ITV in July, including the rescheduled Al Basti Equiworld Dante and the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes, normally run as trials for the Investec Derby and Oaks, but this year run as standalone races after the Epsom Classics on York's opening July 9 fixture.
While delighted to welcome participants back to the track, racing without a crowd will continue to have a significant impact on the track's finances, according to Derby, making it vitally important to welcome customers back as soon as possible.
"For a course like Goodwood and certainly York, 80 per cent of our revenue comes from mass gatherings, whether that's on a raceday or a non-raceday," he said. "So 80 per cent of our business came to a grinding halt on March 17."
He continued: "As outlined, at the moment customers are precluded from going to any elite sporting event by government legislation so there has to be a specific change in the legislation and government approval to allow that to happen.
"We would like this rule to change. There will evidently be different capacities and protocols in place but at the moment it's waiting for a green light."
While the upsides of being an elite sport staged outdoors was that racing was the first sport in Britain to emerge from lockdown when restrictions were lifted on June 1, it also restricts it from benefiting from the relaxing of measures for the hospitality sector that will see venues such as pubs and restaurants reopening on July 4.
Derby added: "Now we've got racing behind closed doors, it's about how we in racing – the BHA, owners and racecourses – go to the next step of welcoming back a paying attendance to racecourses."
Discussions are still ongoing regarding prize-money levels at the Ebor meeting, according to the chief executive, although a reduction similar to those announced at Goodwood is anticipated.
Highlights such as the Group 1 Juddmonte International, Darley Yorkshire Oaks, Coolmore Nunthorpe and the Sky Bet Ebor will all feature, with no reduction in the race programme planned.
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